Saturday, January 12, 2013
Northwestern Looking to Defend Home Court vs Iowa
One of the oddities of this season has been that Northwestern has played better away from Welsh-Ryan Arena. In NU’s recent history they’d be very strong inside Welsh-Ryan, but this year they’ve been far better away from home. If NU wants to consider upending many of the negative expectations that currently surround them as a team they need to start winning at home consistently.
The good news is the Iowa Hawkeye squad who they will face on Sunday is a team they have the ability to beat. In many ways these two teams are the same. They’re both young teams trying to prove they belong in the second tier of the Big Ten instead of the third tier with Penn State and Nebraska. NU got their first Big Ten win in a 70-54 victory at Penn State, but Iowa sits at 0-3 in the league after a late collapse at home vs Michigan State. This is probably in many ways a bigger game for Iowa given that fact, but moving to 2-2 in the league would certainly benefit NU given that they face an Illinois team that is seriously slumping in Champaign on Thursday.
One of the things that got NU back on the winning track vs PSU was the fact they hit their three point shots. Making those 9-of-22 threes caused the ‘Cats to able to reach 70 points which was dramatically more than it looked like they’d ever reach in a Big Ten game after their loss to Minnesota. Making more threes will be key vs Iowa. Iowa native Kale Abrahamson needs to continue his improvement and outside shooting contributions from Dave Sobolewski and Jared Swopshire could also prove the difference as they did at Penn State. One area of concern is that Iowa has been strong in three point percentage defense holding opponents below 30%. However, it should be noted that the Hawkeyes haven’t faced great three point shooting teams yet. I’m not sure NU is a great shooting team either, but hopefully they’ll be able to get some open looks via the Princeton Offense.
NU getting those open looks is possible because Iowa plays a ton of young guys and young players often fall victim to the Princeton Offense the first time they face it. Iowa guards Mike Gesell (9.2ppg) and Anthony Clemmons have had nice freshmen seasons, but hopefully they’ll be somewhat uncertain about how to defend and attack NU. This is a game where NU might want to consider playing the 1-3-1 zone as Iowa only makes 30.8% of their threes and the zone is tough to prepare for in practice and Iowa’s young guys haven’t seen it in game action. Iowa’s best players are guard Roy Devyn Marble who averages 15.5 points per game and is the team’s only serious three point shooting threat. He was out for the Michigan State game, but will likely play vs NU. Center Aaron White has been a strong scoring threat for Iowa at 13.1ppg and he also gets 6.1rpg. He’ll be a guy NU needs to keep of the offensive glass if they do play 1-3-1. Iowa also gets some inside scoring and defense from Melsahn Basabe. Also, watch Zach McCabe who has slumped this year, but guys have been known to break slumps vs Northwestern.
Prediction: I’ve had my worst year predicting games this season (though I was just one point off on each team’s total in the NU@Minnesota game). It’s just so hard to get a read on this Northwestern team. I think this is a game NU should probably win. Yes, Iowa played Michigan State close, but that was in Iowa City and young teams generally play better at home (NU has admittedly been an exception). Also, I’m counting on the fact that facing the Princeton Offense and 1-3-1 zone for the first time in game action will confound Iowa’s youth and the fact that Welsh-Ryan is sometimes a tough place to shoot in because it’s so different in shooting background than the larger (and nicer) arenas the rest of the Big Ten has and Iowa’s a team that hasn’t shot well of late. Northwestern, 71 Iowa, 65